Well, it's totally up to you. If you want to keep going and plow onto the next part of the story, then go right ahead. Ultimately, though, I assume you won't want your finished product (that is, the entire story in its finished form) to have a sudden change of pace like that; I assume you'd want to go redraft this opening? If so, I think you could start afresh again (I know you're wary of that) and choose a new point to open the story, for example. It just depends on whether you'd be looking to really overhaul the plot, or if you'd just be making minor alterations. At the end of the day, this is all just a process of drafting and redrafting, figuring out what works best for the story. So I wouldn't beat yourself up about it or anything, just chalk it up as a learning experience and get right back to work.
Posted 13 March 2014 - 04:54 PM
Yeah. I think considering the fact I redid the opening chapter to address much of what you advised (have you had a chance to read that yet?), thus starting again once, doing so again would just destroy whatever is left of this. It's like reboots of films; it's been done, move on.
And move on I shall. Hopefully, as D:ream sang, it can only get better.
Posted 14 March 2014 - 01:55 AM
After reading these chapters and reading everybody else's insight into the pacing and backstory, I'll just tell you, backstory is fine in small chunks, but the second it starts to take over from the current action and story to the point your real story has stopped you have to think about everything.
You've given us six chapters of Amelia, and we know she's insecure and possibly a bisexual, and she's got a little thing for Marky Mark and Valerie. We know thse things--But instead of bogging us down with six slow chapters that don't relate to the story, why not incorporate those important things in relation? Why can't we learn of the lesbian kiss and development of Amelia's sexual identity while the story goes on? What about Amelia's first partner and life in the vault? You can still show us, and make us see what you're trying to present to us, but you're also getting the story underway. Of course this type of pacing would seem suitable for a novel of 100,000 words because there's a lot of ground to cover.
Remember that you can use plot to convey backstory and development. What if Amelia has to save Valerie not out of anything but love? She probably doesn't and that's a story for another day, but can you see what I mean? Only 10% of your character's backstory should come to light, and even then, you add it in small snippets to the plot. That's my two cents for now, but don't take it too hard. Pacing it like this could work if you had a little bit more direction with where you were going.
Posted 17 March 2014 - 12:13 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 31 March 2014 - 10:28 PM.
Seven - Adulthood
Confusion followed Amelia for the next few years. She had feelings for Mark, but what she felt for Valerie only got stronger. The controversial side ceased to matter in her mind, though she was still aware of it. The teenagers continued their giggles, but Amelia found herself rising above it. It had taken a while, but she had finally fully realized: she was in love.
She felt guilty for stringing Mark along, but he didn’t seem too bothered. He had a string of girlfriends, but none of the relationships lasted. Amelia suspected he was interested in little more than sex. He was blunt and that showed in his humor. In the evenings when the trio would hang out, he’d feel no inhibitions about talking about sex. At times, Amelia suspected he wanted a three-way, and she’d seen his eyes change as he looked at her. But she just shrugged it away.
Until the realization that she was in love with Valerie, Amelia had remained pretty causal about her relationships. Mark was a decent guy – to her, at least – and they had kissed and touched. But he’d never pushed the subject. Perhaps, she thought, he knew.
Her relationship with Mark grew stronger, and with Valerie she grew closer. She buzzed when she headed to her residence. She tingled when they kissed. Her heart leapt in her chest when they embraced. Her insecurities faded when they were together; Valerie genuinely loved Amelia’s body, from the red hair that Amelia had once hated to her breasts she thought were too small. When she was with Valerie, they weren’t. When they were together, she wasn’t too skinny or fat or pale.
Finally their relationship moved up a level. They were lying on Valerie’s bed, kissing, their hands running up and down over eachother’s jumpsuits. Amelia allowed her hand to move across Valerie’s chest and Valerie went one better, sliding her hand into Amelia’s jumpsuit. It was only a matter of time until Valerie’s eyes lit up on discovering, first hand, that Amelia had acted on her suggestion.
“You like it?” Amelia asked. Valerie didn’t reply with words. She rolled on top, kissing harder. She didn’t remove her hand, either and soon Amelia was reciprocating it.
The bullying didn’t stop, per se, but Amelia had become almost immune to it. Almost. The words and giggles still hurt, but she would think of Valerie and her body would be awash with a painkilling sensation. Mark kept anything physical at bay. In many ways he was like her big brother.
As they neared the end of their school-life, Amelia was wrestling with two choices. Both the science and medical sectors were open to her to work in, and while she tried to decide between the two, she was contemplating giving herself to Valerie.
Finally she made her decision.
It started with kissing, and Valerie had unzipped their jumpsuits past their chests. Amelia unzipped hers farther and soon they were naked. All the while, Valerie was patient and respectable. Amelia feared she’d not measure up or disappoint her, but Valerie’s smile didn’t let up.
Time both froze and sped by. The evening stretched out but was suddenly gone. Every second had counted.
Amelia was tired. Valerie had explored her body with her hands and mouth and Amelia had returned the favor, albeit shyly, driven by her dark, guilty, curious desire. Her mind kept replaying it, from the very first touch to the final gasp, and she was left physically exhausted but so fulfilled. That her first time was not with a boy didn’t matter. She didn’t care.
School ended as the teenagers became adults. Amelia was blessed with a position in the medical and science sectors – and Valerie worked alongside her in the clinic as an apprentice. Mark seemed tailor-made for security. He was stocky and most of it was muscle. He’d thought nothing of showing that off to Amelia. He’d have her grasp his upper arms, and once even bench-pressed her. She’d giggled throughout.
The strangest thing about Mark was his personality. Amelia honestly found him amazing, and if she’d never met Valerie, then there’d be a strong possibility that they’d be together. But away from her, he was different. She’d seen it once or twice – small fights with class-mates, sarcastic comments to other Vault-dwellers…. It reminded her how the world was not black and white.
And in here they were safe. Outside the world was hell. Or was it? Instruments showed the atmosphere to be normal. Talk had begun about expeditions and rumors were circulating that a green light had been given. Previous talks had apparently ended in heated debates and came to no conclusion. Many argued the potential dangers outweighed any possible gain that was to be had, while others countered that readings from their instruments read within the safe range. Still, no conclusion was arrived at, until Amelia and a couple of other scientists dressed up the data for their superior to present – Amelia was too junior to address the committee herself. Finally, after much more debating, the decision was made to green-light the project, and preparations began.
For Amelia and her senior colleagues, this meant running and re-running tests and scans. Radiation levels were well in the green, and all other readings were normal. Training had begun, with an election process being drawn up to select who would be trained and thus to go on the first expedition – a prospect few wanted.
However, Amelia was one of them. She looked at the readings and wanted to venture into the unknown, to examine the terrain and be a pioneer, perhaps making contact with civilization, and championing an economical agreement, pulling her community into the outside world…. If any of it was left. The scientist in her yearned for that, and had her volunteer for it, despite the other side of her – the young, victimized girl – recoiling from the prospect, wanting to hide from it all in the safety of their vault. But she knew her scientific mind wouldn’t be able to hide from whatever questions and answers were out there.
On hearing of Amelia’s adventurous decision, Mark had signed himself up for the expedition’s security detail. He wasn’t concerned with discovering civilization, or being a pioneer, but the thought of Amelia stepping out into the unknown made him uncomfortable. So his name went on the volunteer sheet, with the sole purpose to protect her. This came with the sacrifice of his latest relationship, with a girl called Claire.
Amelia had been chosen, and to his relief, so had Mark (he’d actually called in a favor to ensure that this was the case). In truth not that many people volunteered – only the curious scientists and the security personnel who wanted to shoot some twenty foot tall mutated creatures. The odds of them both being selected, Amelia had figured out, was two-in-three.
They sat in the classroom with the head of security talking to them about protocols and procedures. Everyone would receive extensive arms training – to Mark’s delight – but despite this, all of the science personnel were urged to follow the command of the security – for their safety.
“I'm not sure how I feel about using a gun,” Amelia said to Valerie as they lay naked in bed, the latter stroking her lover’s bare shoulder. Amelia loved the softness of her touch and sighed in receipt of it.
“It’s not like you’re being trained to shoot one of us.” Valerie was slightly uneasy with her lover using a gun too, but it would be foolish going out there without one. “Besides, it’s kinda hot.” Her hand traveled south, cupping Amelia’s breast.
Amelia’s hand came up and pulled Valerie’s away.
Valerie nodded, getting the message. She’d also applied – to watch over her lover – but had done so late, and had missed out. Amelia knew that fact tore Valerie up inside.
“I’ll miss you,” Valerie said with a smile. Amelia responded, not with words, but with a hug and a kiss to the forehead.
“I’ll come back.”
“Promise you won’t find a new lover – one that glows in the dark?”
Amelia laughed at that and kissed her again, lifting the bed sheets up and looking down at the naked female form beneath.
“Nah, you’ll do.”
Again both girls laughed.
End of Part One
Posted 17 March 2014 - 08:59 PM Edited by Tycek, 18 March 2014 - 08:33 AM.
Two things from me:
It's good you sped up your story, but bad you did it in such a way. It feels like machine gun burst, events flowing in, none of them significant. Someone kissed, someone didn't, they were picked, ta-da, end of chapter. In the process you lost absolutely everything in terms of atmosphere, background, details, etc.
Radiation levels were well in the green, and all other readings were normal.
Vaults never had any kind of environment monitors. They were opening in only two cases (all-clear signal from the Enclave or emergency override done by Overseer as in Vault 13, where water chip failed.) People weren't leaving like that, because what would be the point? Since all-clear signal didn't come, Vault is sealed off.
Posted 17 March 2014 - 11:01 PM
I had to push the story forward. It was either condense what I had into one chapter, or string it out more. Lose-lose situation, I guess.
Posted 18 March 2014 - 01:44 AM
Well, yeah, because it exposes a real flaw in your story's structure that can't simply be papered over. Why would you want to put out a piece of writing that you know is lose-lose? I really got the feeling in that chapter that you knew it was rushed, but you were doing it anyway because of the feedback we've given you.
Posted 18 March 2014 - 01:46 PM
Well of course, Em. I can't ignore the feedback, and as said, starting from scratch was not an option.
The choice I had was A) carry on in the same vein and "ignore" the advice, or B) try to pick up the pace and move forward. I saw no other choice.
Posted 18 March 2014 - 05:46 PM
There were indeed two ways to do it and it doesn't matter which one you picked. Problem is you simply took wrong way to get to your destination. Speeding the event is one thing, but rushing everything only to lose things you achieved before is the other. That's the problem in my opinion. Everything feels rushed, without any details, without tries to make it atmospheric, etc. As i said, someone kissed, had sex and tada doors are opening.
Don't even think about dropping it.
Posted 19 March 2014 - 12:34 AM
Well like i said, it was to speed, as you put it, or take the scenic route which no one was enjoying. Perhaps part two can deliver where part one didn't, we'll just have to wait and see.
Regarding dropping it, no comment.
Posted 31 March 2014 - 10:26 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 17 April 2014 - 10:22 PM.
One - The Expedition
The expedition loomed in the morning. Valerie lay next to Amelia, the lights turned low, the bed sheets draped over them as they embraced. They stroked each other’s skin, Valerie wondering out loud and against logic if the journey would change Amelia, but Amelia simply cherished her love and the moment; she said nothing.
“I wish you’d got in,” Amelia said eventually, her fingers streaking gently over Valerie’s chest.
Valerie’s fingers were on Amelia’s face. “So do I. I'm going to miss you.”
“Me too.” Amelia dropped her head onto Valerie’s shoulder.
“Well Mark promises to take care of you,” Valerie stated, her hand stroking the dark red hair.
“Yeah, I'm lucky he’s there.”
“He’s not a bad guy, really. There’s no other man in here that I would trust more with your safety. He cares.”
Amelia sat back and smiled. “I'm glad he’s there.”
“Me too. I know he’ll keep you safe, but promise me one thing.”
“Two, actually. Promise me that you’ll listen to him and the security officers, and be smart. Stick together –”
“I'm not going to run into a pool of radiation, Val.”
“I know. But promise me something else.”
Valerie’s hands cupped Amelia’s face gently and she stared straight into her eyes. “Come back to me. It might be dangerous out there, but it might be exciting and opportunistic. If there’s a glorious world that survived or recovered, promise me that, even if you want return to the outside, if that’s an option you wish, that you’ll come back to me. I’ll be waiting.”
Amelia nodded, staring back into her lover’s beautiful golden eyes. “I will. I promise.”
Valerie smiled and pulled Amelia in. They kissed passionately. Amelia held her lover tightly until her arms ached. She didn’t want to let go.
The next couple of hours were pure, constant ecstasy. Amelia hoped the walls would keep the sound in, but in the end, she didn’t really care.
Amelia slept deeper and more peacefully that night than she could remember.
* * *
“So, today’s the day,” Valerie said as they woke. Amelia felt the fuzziness in her belly immediately. She couldn’t finish her breakfast, and her mother’s maternal instincts picked up on it immediately.
Amelia managed only a nod, not wanting to hear her shaky voice break as she knew it would. Her mother moved her chair round and put her arm around her daughter.
“I'm very, very proud of you, and your father would be too.”
“Me too,” Valerie added. Amelia had to smile at that.
“You know, even though I’ve spent the last several months running scans, and I know – scientifically – that it’s safe up there, I'm still apprehensive about going. I'm not scared, it’s just…”
“Leaving this place – no one here has done that before. It’s normal to be nervous.” Maggie Rose grabbed her daughter’s hand. “Listen to the security guys though, don’t wander off from the group. I want my princess to come home, alright?”
Amelia smiled and hugged her mother. “Thanks, mom.”
Mark stood in the unisex security changing room, along with a dozen other men and women. Everyone had arrived dressed in their blue and yellow Vault jumpsuits and, like a well-disciplined army, marched to the lockers to prepare for the expedition. Around him was security and science personnel and, of course, Amelia.
He reached in to the lockers in front of him and pulled out two Kevlar vests. He handed one to Amelia, and the other he slipped over his jumpsuit.
“Tight,” Amelia said, and Mark automatically thought of how the vest would be pushing on her chest, and how he envied it. He nodded in reply and reached back into the lockers for their cold-weather gear; a coat and pants made of thick, thermally insulated material, collared and uninterestingly tan color. He handed Amelia’s to her and they both slipped them on over their jumpsuit and vests. With that done, they tucked the thick trousers into the specially designed boots that stretched halfway up their lower legs, and were fastened by buckles.
Next came the harnesses that would hold their weapons and gear. A utility belt was affixed around the waist and a back-holster slung over the shoulders. Mark handed Amelia her Laser Rifle, and watched as she sat on the metal bench, her dainty fingers working the energy cell into the weapon. She looked up and he slapped his in with a smile.
Together, they checked their Pipboys – which had been fitted with new batteries that would last several months – and ensured they all carried a full inventory which included Stimpaks and meds, food rations, ammunition, a torch.
The supervisors checked everyone was ready and, a minute later, they all filed out of the room for their briefing. Everyone was addressed by the lead scientist, the security commander, and the expedition leader. The latter was a senior security officer, but also an enthusiastic academic, much to Amelia's relief. She was glad they were not following a single-minded, gung-ho security guard, but also that the leader would understand the value of the armed men.
Amelia, in her thick cold-weather coat, looked at Mark with a smile. She looked tiny in the thick, brown fabric, he thought, like someone snugly wrapped in a duvet – a thought that led to Mark imagining waking up to her each morning. He shook that thought away as they marched out of the briefing room.
"You ready?" she asked, looking up somewhat timidly.
"You bet!" Mark wished he still had his gun drawn, that he could slap the already-in-place cartridge into the grip to affirm his point. "You?"
Amelia shrugged. "Fifty-fifty."
"A little, I suppose. Into the unknown, hey?" Amelia followed Mark through the door into the room where their backpacks waited.
"Well you guys have done well mapping it out from down here - how the hell did you do that?" Mark lifted Amelia’s pack and helped her put it on. In it was a thick sleeping-bag, some waterproof plastic sheeting a couple of blankets and a metal cooking pot. In a zipped pouch on the side would be an electric fire-lighter and a basic first aid kit.
" Simple answer or detailed one?"
"Give me the dumb-guy one,” Mark said, putting on his own pack. It was heavy, but his years of working out in the Vault’s gym, or in the many hours where his job was boring had paid off. He knew Amelia had her own fitness routine, and that would pay off too.
"X-Rays, but a lot more complicated. We scan with extremely high frequency sonar pulses and get a three dimensional picture back... Actually it's not three dimensional, we have to scan with high-powered bursts in order to penetrate the concrete and rock, and what we get back is a single layered picture. Then we have to do it again, with slightly differing power rates, and match the two images up. The difference reveals to us the make-up of that layer, relative to the depth of the bursts – "
"I said dumb it down."
Mark nodded acceptance of the answer as Amelia let slip a small chuckle.
He looked at her, and how adorable she looked in that moment, her dainty mouth arching upward in her bubbly face. It was that moment that he remembered why he’d volunteered for the expedition. She was his responsibility.
The walk to the vault door was tense, through hallways lined with those that chose to watch. Some applauded, and Amelia – and Mark – felt like explorers, discovering a bold new world – which, in fact, they were.
Amelia allowed her eyes to meet those of her childhood tormentors who, to her surprise, had come to watch. Some would be pleased to see her go, she was sure, though she was too focused/nervous to hear anything they might have said. For the most though, she eyed then down. Look at me now!
Her mother stood near the entrance doorway, tears welling in her eyes. Amelia kept her discipline to stay upright and in formation – a point hammered home by the security commander. She did allow her head to turn, though, and her eyes to meet her mother's.
"I'm proud of you," Maggie mouthed. That only made Amelia's eyes mimic her mother's as she couldn't beat the tears back either.
Mark was right behind Amelia and Maggie caught his eye. She mouthed for him to keep her beloved daughter safe. He nodded sharply in reply, determination on his face.
Maggie accepted the promise with a sad smile.
Valerie was there too and she beamed a proud smile. Amelia saw her turn to someone and point.
That’s my lover, it looked like she said. Valerie blew her a refined kiss. Amelia wanted to step out of line, run over to her and wrap her arms around her, then do the same to her mother.
I don’t want to go.
Mark had no surviving family. No one waved him off, but that was fine. He was with Amelia and, to some extent, held that victory over Valerie.
They entered the entrance hallway and the door was closed behind them with a hiss and a metallic slam. That’s when it hit Amelia full force. This was real. They were going outside. Out of the safety, out of the warmth.
Out into what?
Amelia and Mark stared at the huge, circular Vault door. A klaxon sounded. The lights began to oscillate a yellowy-orange.
Amelia reached out and grabbed Mark’s hand. He felt her squeeze tightly and turned to look at her. Her eyes were like a child’s. They reached out to him, through fear.
“Last chance,” he said. “Want to bail?”
Amelia swallowed then clenched her jaw. She shook her head, slowly at first, then with conviction. He throat was too dry to talk. Mark nodded.
A final attendance was taken for the Vault records and the go-ahead was given. A guard checked the inner door was closed and locked.
Then the Vault door was activated for the first time in well over two hundred years.
The door screamed as steel grated on steel. The entranceway shook, and Amelia felt the rumbling resonate in her chest. She felt as though her heart was going to be shaken out of her ribcage. The cacophony of several tons of metal moving drowned out the pounding of her heart, but still she felt it, like the beating of a tribal drum. Beating like a march to war. A march into the unknown.
Amelia had pictured the moment for as long as she knew she’d be facing it. The huge vault door would roll aside and she’d be presented with the remains of a dead world. Her breath hung in her throat as she braced herself for the horrors that might await her.
The sound of the door opening did little to relax her. It sounded like the gates of Hell opening. It revealed nothing other than a lightless rocky tunnel, seemingly leading into an abyss. Flashlights were activated and, somewhat sheepishly, the team moved forward. Mark kept close to Amelia, feeling concern only for her.
Amelia was suddenly aware that she was walking on ground last touched by those fleeing the apocalypse. That thought sent a ghostly chill down her spine. The last time this tunnel had been used, there was so much death and destruction. It was strange; the long-since war, and the ‘end of the world’ had been just facts in books up until now. Now it was real, and she was walking into it, on ground since untouched.
They walked down the tunnel. The flashing lights winked at them from behind. The Klaxon quietened. Their footsteps crunched on dry dirt, clapping on the cold, hard stone, echoing down the dark cavern. The tunnel turned at a right angle and climbed upward. At the top there was a thin streak of light, drawing them in.
A wooden gate stood at the end, bright light flooding through the gaps. The expedition leader reached for it. He took a deep breath and pulled.
Nothing happened. He tried again.
He pushed and, with a creak and a crack, the door moved. With a stiff groan he opened it. Amelia and Mark watched, seeing the dark, rotting wood open and reveal nothing but white.
The leader gave the thumbs up. The guard at the back turned and hurried down the tunnel. A moment later the rocky floor shook. The rumbling and cries of the metal echoed off the stone. Amelia flinched as the vault door closed unseen with a final bang. There was the metallic clang as the locks were engaged.
Silence descended on the group as the rear guard returned.
No one seemed enthusiastic to step out. It was Amelia who pushed through the group, with Mark staying close. She stood in the doorway, bathed in white light. She could see nothing ahead of her. For a moment she feared that the world was gone and in its wake stood a void - nothing but a monotone white.
Slowly, however, her eyes adjusted. The plain white began to lessen. She could make out shapes. Strange, angry angles of shadow. A darkness and a lightness.
Finally, with a deep breath, she stepped out.
The cold hit her straight away, even through the thick layers she wore. She shivered but welcomed the involuntary action – she knew it was her body’s natural and automatic way of warming itself.
They stood there for a moment, Mark and Amelia the only ones bold enough to move out of the shelter of the doorway. Mark led the way, his hand resting on his still-holstered gun. His footfalls crunched on the ground, a sound he found most pleasing, if not strange.
“That’s cool,” Amelia said. Mark turned to see her crouching, her fingers clawing up some of the white dust that covered the floor. She had removed one of her gloves. “It’s freezing!” Mark too bent down and scooped up a handful.
He shook it from his hand. “What is it?”
The others were moving now, some looking at the ground, others at the terrain. A few touched the snow.
“Sure beats concrete walls,” Mark said, arching his neck up, allowing the brisk wind to bite at his skin. “Feel that!” He took in a deep nasal breath. The cold air filled his lungs. He exhaled with a smile.
Amelia shook the snow from her hand and replaced her glove.
“It’s amazing,” she said, looking at Mark
He nodded and said, “we should take some back with us, put it in a jar – you know, give it as a present.”
“Wouldn’t work,” Amelia said with a chuckle. “It’d melt.”
“Shame. It’s pretty neat out here.”
“Yeah but…. I dunno, we’re outside! This must be how astronauts felt going into space.”
“Oblivious to the dangers?”
“What dangers?” Another voice chipped in. “Sensors show no life-forms, radiation’s low – the only hazard is the cold, and we’re equipped for that.”
Mark slowly walked forward in the snow, listening to the crunch his footsteps made. He watched, grinning as his feet sunk slightly into the ground.
He looked up, seeing the snow stretching as far as the eye could see – which was not far; a dense fog hindered their vision.
“Amelia,” he said, not turning to see if she heard, “What’s this fog? Is it radiation?”
“No. It’s… cloud, I think.”
“Yeah. You know: cooled water vapor, condensing into a collective body… As in clouds you see in the sky.”
Mark moved his gaze upward, seeing for the first time in his life, the sky. It was underwhelming.
“But we’re on the ground,” he argued.
“Our Vault was built up on a mountain. We’re on a mountain.”
Mark was confused. “So we’re high enough for cloud to be this low?”
“Essentially, yeah. That’s pretty much what fog is, anyway.”
“I thought it was radiation,” Mark chuckled.
“You can’t see Radiation. I wonder how much there actually is.”
“The war was over two hundred years ago – wouldn’t that all be gone now?”
Amelia laughed. “No, radiation stays around for a long time. The bombs themselves, the half life of the material is huge – plutonium can have a half-life of millions of years.”
“sh*t. That long?” Mark had no idea what a half-life was, but a million years sounded long enough.
“Yeah – though when they’re detonated that changes somewhat. The energy – which is all radiation is really – is used up in the explosion so the half-life is less.”
“A couple of hundred years?”
“Bingo. No one knows for sure, though and it varies depending on what they use in the weapons, but it’s from a hundred to maybe five hundred…”
“In other words,” another voice summarized with a snicker, “It hangs around like a bad smell.”
“And we’re safe here?” Mark asked, reaching out with his hand in a futile attempt to touch the fog.
“Yeah,” Amelia said. “Readings here are barely higher than what was considered normal before the war.”
“Wait, before the war? You mean to say the world was irradiated before the bombs dropped?”
“Yeah,” Amelia said, “a different kind of radiation though – they weren’t all sitting on nuclear bombs, but electronic devices, vehicles – they ran on fusion cells - everything gave of a form of radiation. Remember what the word radiation means.”
“No, to spread. A fire radiates warmth, a light bulb radiates light. In fact in early light bulbs, light was merely a byproduct. Eighty per cent of the energy was spent as heat.”
“Like a flame?”
“Exactly. Even in the vault we had low levels of radiation – the general population wasn’t told that of course.” Amelia’s voice reverted from the passion of her interest to a more lamenting tone. “Most would panic.”
“Oh yeah, Nuclear radiation is one of the scariest things us scientists know of. You can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but it’s there, and you wouldn’t know you’re in it until it’s too late.”
“Kind of.” Amelia stepped forward, looking around. The fog hid whatever world was out there. She could only see about twenty meters. She felt blind.
“Alright people,” the leader – John Carter – called out. “Time to move on.”
- MacAshford likes this
Posted 06 April 2014 - 10:04 AM
Very good chapter. We're seeing the inner wants and struggles come out while the story itself is moving along nicely. As for Amelia and Mark, I have a feeling things will turn one way or another which will push them into each other's arms. Or maybe not, story is in the eye of the writer. I liked this chapter though as we're seeing two sides of Amelia: the dependent, loving side with Valerie and the strong, intelligent scientific mind she has. Also, they're out the vault and the bulk of the story can now begin! Keep this up, it's not all bad.
I'll give you a breakdown of some grammar and stuff a few more chapters in.
Posted 06 April 2014 - 05:49 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 06 April 2014 - 05:49 PM.
Thanks for the feedback Ziggs. I'm on my knees pointing at the sky something's apparently gone right!
Glad Amelia's character is coming through a bit now.
As for Mark and Amelia getting together..........
Posted 17 April 2014 - 10:19 PM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 07 May 2014 - 10:10 AM.
Two - The Unknown
No one had fully anticipated how physically demanding the expedition would be. Walking in the snow was a feat unto itself. Every footfall was unlike anything they’d experienced; their feet sunk into the white powder and they had to lift each leg awkwardly to move on. The ground offered so much resistance and their clothing, supplies, equipment and weapons weighed them down. Amelia had never found walking difficult, though Mark had once injured his leg and had to spend several weeks on crutches. Amelia wondered if the security officers were better equipped for the journey, in that they often wore armor and carried weapons. She was glad she’d maintained her exercise routine over the years. It was paying off now, she thought, though after an hour of walking – if it could be called that – her legs had begun to ache. It was just so bizarre.
Mark wasn’t as affected by the physical demands. He visited the gymnasium in the vault every day, which was stocked with a decent selection of weights. He found it strange, that the world had ended, yet people had thought enough to install a gymnasium in what was essentially an overcrowded bunker, but as Amelia would undoubtedly say, life was full of contradictions. His relationship with her was one.
The group – ten of them in total – moved on relentlessly. The wind tore at their faces and Amelia – along with several others – had pulled her neck-scarf up to shield her face. She was thankful for the goggles too, which prevented her eyes from watering from the chill. To her relief, the wind didn’t bring with it any precipitation, but that didn’t make it any easier. The top layer of snow was stirred up by the wind in large dust clouds, which hampered vision even more than the fog was. The air was also thin, and she was taking longer, deeper breaths. She worried that fatigue wouldn’t be too far off.
She remembered looking back early on, seeing the gate in the rocky outcrop and remarking on how long it had taken to walk just a dozen meters. As they walked on, she kept looking back, seeing the door and the rock it was built into fade into the cloud as though it was fading from existence. From that point on, she found herself fighting the onset of panic. Every direction she looked she saw nothing but a white haze. She could tell the sun was to the south somewhere; the fog was paler in that direction, but she could discern little else. The ground was endless snow, fading into the fog like something from a poorly-remembered dream.
Hours passed, bringing with it about a mile or two of travel. Camp was set up, and they sat around on bedrolls as they rested and talked.
“This is pretty amazing.” Amelia, who’d set her bedroll up next to Mark’s, reached out to warm her hands on the fire.
“Camping,” Mark nodded. “I always wanted to go camping – proper camping. Not in a service duct but out in the woods, fishing in the morning…”
“Yeah, my grandfather used to tell me these stories – passed down from his father, and his father. He had photos and a holodisk of them. It looked and sounded fun.”
“I never had anything like that,” Amelia reflected. “I’ve got what I need – family wise. Never knew my father really – he died when I was too young.” Mark knew that. “There are no pre-war stories in my family like that. Fishing… that’s pretty swell. I miss my father sometimes.”
“I bet he’d be proud of you.”
Amelia nodded. “I hope so. I know my mother is. It’s strange knowing I might be saving even those that hate me.”
Amelia’s face changed. “They didn’t tell you, did they?”
“Tell me what?”
“The real reason for this trip.”
“It’s not to explore?”
“No – well kind of. We’re running out of supplies. Spare parts, materials, that kind of thing. They’re all low, and the machines and systems are showing signs of strain.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Mark, the vaults were built to last a few hundred years. Not forever. We get food from a complicated system of machines, and water through purifiers and recyclers. These need maintaining more and more, but we can’t keep doing so because we don’t have enough parts. We live in an isolated system, Mark, where everything’s contained. What happens when nothing comes in, but we keep drawing more and more out?”
“I don’t know.”
“Reserves will become depleted; we exhaust our resources. In our Vault, that puts strain on everything and….” Once again the passion had yielded to a more somber tone.
“We predict that the Vault will fail in the next five to ten years.”
“Fail? What you mean like collapse?”
“Not literally – the structure will probably last for a thousand years, but the systems, from the food and water ones to the air filtration systems, to power and heat… It’s all going to break, Mark, and we won’t be able to fix it.”
“So we’re searching for a new home?”
“Yes and no. We’re mainly searching for a place to source our parts from.”
“So everyone’s going to die?”
“Not yet. Failure is predicted to begin in five to ten years time. Add another five, ten, fifteen, maybe twenty to that… If we pull the systems back a bit – I recommended taking every system down by fifteen percent, with immediate effect – then they’d last a few more years. I theorized that a twenty percent reduction in demand would add ten years to their life-spans. Twenty five percent reduction, and we’re looking at maybe even twenty. Thirty percent, and it’s closer to fifty.”
“How would we do that?”
“The reductions?” A nod. “A few ways. Lowering the demand each system needs is the simplest – though we’re looking at more efficiency in the systems themselves. The way we lower demand with – say the lighting – is to lower the lumens each light produces, with is most easily done by limiting the power supplied to them.”
“Turn the lights off then?”
“No, just down. Same with heating. We can lower the heating by twenty percent without problems. It’ll feel cold at first, but we’d get used to it within a week, plus we can layer our clothes to compensate. Living quarters and work spaces will be warmer than the hallways anyway – having several bodies occupying the same space creates a communal warmth produced by our body heat.”
“Think of it this way: you have an energy cell for your pistol. If you fire a shot every second, the cell will be depleted in… thirty seconds. Now if you take a ten percent reduction in that, and fire one shot every one-point-one seconds, then it’ll last thirty three seconds. Fire a shot once every three seconds, and it’ll last a minute and a half.”
“I get you. So why aren’t we doing this?”
“Politics. It’s got to be voted for – after we’ve shown solid research and proof – hard to do to be honest, without actually showing them a failed system. Then they’ll have to gauge how everyone else will receive it.”
“So instead they send us out.”
“No, they send us out too. It’s only a temporary solution. That pistol will still run out of ammo, and if you haven’t got any more energy cells – which is the root problem – then you will not be able to fire anymore. We’re merely delaying the inevitable.”
“So we’re out looking for fuel?”
“Anything that will help us – we have a list but I doubt you’ll be interested in things like fission batteries and recharger packs.”
“No,” Mark said with a conceding shake of his head.
“The good news is that this area is safe. We can open the Vault, and draw air from out here – water will not be pure once that system fails, but we’re experimenting with a Rad-X filter I designed – basically it purges all water through a filter soaked in diluted Rad-X, which I stipulate will lower radiation levels to an acceptable limit. Same experiment is going on with Radaway too.”
“But they’re limited.”
“Exactly. We can synthesize our own alternatives but the compounds that make them up are limited, but it’s another method that will prolong things. I was also trying to make a resonant filter, that…”
Mark shook his head. “You love this stuff don’t you?”
Amelia laughed awkwardly. “The science, yeah, but the burden of knowledge that comes with it?” She shook her head. “The good news is that, with my system, I predict with our stocks will last fifty to sixty – maybe seventy – years. The water will still be radioactive, but unless you sit in the bath all day long, drinking gallons a day, there’ll be no harmful effects. It’s not perfect, but it’s something.”
“And if we can’t fix it?”
“Sooner or later it will all fail, but by that time, if we have established a trading connection with any civilization or a decent supply from, I dunno, salvaging, then we’ll be ok. In all honesty, anything over fifty years is implausible. By that time we’ll be better off leaving the vault and seeking a new home – which is part of our mission here I suppose. Living in that Vault, with the supplies we have... it’s not a sustainable existence.”
“None of that worries you?”
“It’s all preemptive – things might fail, but they might not…. Probably will though. This expedition is merely an early precaution. But yes, it does worry me. It worries me deeply. Most people won’t address a problem until it happens, but it’s much better to address if before it happens. Prevention is better than a cure.”
“Do you think we’ll find what we’re after?”
“It’s not that which worries me.”
“What does worry you?”
“You’re right about the bombs – not every square mile would have been hit – by either bomb or fallout. There will be – no, there is – areas that are safe to live in – like here,” Amelia waved at the snowy hillside around them. “We’ve come out of a Vault, into a survivable area, logic tells me there’ll be other Vaults with survivors, maybe ones that have opened already – perhaps survivors who avoided the bombs?”
“Is that likely?”
“I don’t know what the odds are. It depends how many bombs were launched, where they hit, where the wind blew… there’s a lot of variables.”
“So it’s just a guess?”
“I suppose so. Optimistic, perhaps.”
“What’s your worry then?”
“That we’ll find what we’re after in some settlement, but they won’t allow us to have any of it – we’ve got nothing to barter with for it.”
Marc shrugged. “Just take it. They don’t have to like it.”
“I'm not sure that’ll work.”
Another shrug, “We’ve got guns, I'm sure they don’t want to be shot.” He winked, telling Amelia he was joking… sort of.
The expedition resumed and Mark kept close to Amelia.
“Do we actually have any idea where we’re going?”
Amelia shook her head. “Course not, we’re just….”
“Stabbing in the dark.”
“Something like that. We don’t know anything of the world out here – which is why we’re probing at it – ”
“And seeing what falls out.”
Amelia chuckled at that. “That’s one way of putting it. It’s not all Doom and Gloom, Mark. As I said, we’re looking forward and addressing a potentiality.”
“Will they open the Vault?”
“What do you mean?”
“When we get back and tell them the world’s not burning and that we’re not vaporized by the air, will they allow us to leave at will?”
“I hope so, but why would you want to?”
“Look at this place, Amelia. It’s open and…”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
Their next camping site was, Carter decided, one for the night. Amelia’s insecurities returned; sleeping in the dark in an unknown world… She felt like a child again, scared of the notional monsters under the bed. The academic in her evaluated what she knew – sensors had revealed no life forms, there was no evidence of any wildlife, recent or otherwise, and she knew magical and invisible creatures were things of fiction. Logically, there was no concern, but the other half of her didn’t care. She was a long way out of her comfort zone, though Mark seemed to relish the adventure. She suspected he wanted to shoot some nuclear werewolf or something, but his presence was enough to alleviate her fears. Enough to put them aside, if not completely forget about them.
Mark had the first ‘shift’ of watching over the camp while others slept. One of the security personnel had a specially designed sensor – an expansion of the Pipboy’s life-form detection system – which scanned the area around them, warning of any life-forms. Mark’s partner watched the screen, while Mark just looked out at the eerie, ambient light created by the reflective lightness of the snow.
“God damn it, it’s cold,” the security officer – Harry – said.
“It is a bit different,” Mark agreed.
“I think we should make a suggestion for better clothes next time.”
Mark nodded. Thicker clothing would be nice. “Why did you volunteer for this?”
“I didn’t know it’d be this cold! I thought It’d be exciting – the first person to go outside, you know?”
“Hell yeah! I wish it wasn’t so damned cold though!”
“Could be worse – could be raining Nuclear Fire.”
“Really!? After two hundred years? That’s not how it works, man.”
Mark sighed. “I was making a joke.”
Harry nodded. “So why are you here? Pioneer? Shoot some survivors?”
“Know the redhead?”
“Yeah, pretty little thing – seems too young to be out here.”
“Don’t be fooled by her age – she’s as smart as anyone else here. More so perhaps. Besides, she’s not a kid, you know?”
“Well if she’s here, it’s going to be through merit – those geeks are objective with that kinda thing you know, though not everyone here are the smartest we’ve got.”
“No – they split them up, half of the smartest came, half stayed.”
“To look for a solution?”
“A solution? To what?”
Mark realized he’d put his foot in it, and didn’t have the energy to explain. He longed for his bedroll, but knew his shift had not ended yet. He couldn’t allow himself to let his guard down – for Amelia’s sake, more than anything else. “I don’t know,” he lied. “Amelia gave me a long gibberish techno-speak lecture, about god-knows-what.”
“She’s why you’re here.” That was not a question. “Childhood sweetheart?”
Mark laughed, “I suppose, but she’s with someone.”
“Oh, I know who she is now. She’s the one that uproar in the school was about – she kissed a girl, right?”
“Who she’s still with.”
“Jeez. My son was at school then. The backlash from that was ridiculous.”
“Who cares if she likes girls? Or boys. Or both.”
“I’ve seen how she looks at you – despite her smarts, she seems a confused girl.”
Mark shrugged. “She’s in love with that other girl. They were friends when we met but…” Mark shook his head, wondering if her mind could ever be changed. “You have to realize that the kids at school made her life miserable. Every time I saw her she looked like she was about to cry. She looked miserable – I’ve never seen anyone look that sad. Imagine what it’s like, waking up feeling like that every day. She had no one – not a single friend, apart from Valerie.”
Harry chuckled. “Yet you still want to lay her down, am I right?”
“More than anything in the world. Yeah, she’s why I'm here.”
“Well maybe she’ll grow out of it,” Harry said, angering Mark, who knew Amelia’s feelings were not a mere fad. He knew her, and he saw it in her eyes. Amelia felt for Valerie how he felt for her. He knew, despite Amelia’s feelings toward him, he could not compete with what Valerie gave her.
Lesbian, that’s the word people used, but he didn’t see her as that. She was in love with Valerie. That was clear. He wondered if Maggie knew, or cared. He suspected that, if Valerie wasn’t on the scene, they’d be an item. He appreciated how confused Amelia would be, and wondered what the process that led to her being sexually attracted to girls (or just Valerie?) was. They’d had several conversations and physical encounters that told him she’d had strong feelings toward him too, but Valerie had the edge. They’d kissed and, on a few times, Mark had caressed her, but he’d never seen nor felt the heaven that he envisioned between her legs. On many occasions he’d closed his eyes and imagined taking her clothes of and laying her slender body on the bed, kissing her neck and….
He shook the image from his head. It was torturous in many ways. He wanted her so badly, but not just physically. She was, in his eyes, perfect in every way. It was her face that he saw most when he closed his eyes. She didn’t wear much makeup –not that there was much in the Vault – her natural lips sat in the middle of her proportionally round face, inviting and teasing, and her eyes, even behind the sadness that had dominated so much of her life, shone like bright green sparks. There was so much life in them, and they especially glowed when she spoke of science and medicine. She came to life in a strange, but adorable, way then. Even her hair, which was the subject of much of the ridicule unfairly directed at her, was beautiful. It was a blend of copper, gold and brown, like a rare mineral, he thought. And it was natural. That made her special.
“What do you think then?”
Mark turned and frowned. “About what?”
“This world we’ve been hiding from.”
Mark shrugged, looking around at the semi-darkness. “It’s survivable out here. We’ve seen that the world is not completely dead.”
“Its controversial, I know, but you think we should open the Vault?”
Mark shrugged. “Yeah.”
Posted 07 May 2014 - 10:10 AM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 17 June 2014 - 11:23 AM.
Three - Remains of the Past
Morning came, with Mark having gotten only a few hours sleep – such was the curse of being a member of the security detail. Amelia looked no less beautiful on waking up, he thought, which merely added to his want and frustration. The camp was packed up after breakfast, which consisted of rationed provisions brought from the Vault, and they were soon moving out.
“Good sleep?” Mark asked, walking alongside Amelia.
“Surprisingly, yeah. I was a little uncomfortable to start with but once I fell asleep, I think I slept right through. What about you?”
“Not as much as yesterday. We spent the whole day walking… not even ten miles. We’ve no idea where we’re going, and I can’t help but think if we had stronger scanning equipment, we’d be able to determine the ideal direction. As we’re going, we’re walking around blindly in the snow. For all we know we could be going in circles.”
“Don’t we have maps on our thingies?” Mark waved his left hand, to which his Pipboy was affixed.
“Yeah, and we don’t think we’re going in circles. Problem is, we have little in points of reference. So far we’ve discovered a whole lot of nothing.” Their vision was still poor, and there was nothing but snow and rock.
“There’s got to be something out here, right?”
“We are on top of a mountain.”
“On top of the world.”
“Not quite. I don’t know. Two hundred years ago, a couple of hundred missiles were launched. That’s a lot of damage – but it’s the fallout that damages the world more. The initial blasts are devastating, but in specific areas. The shockwaves and aftershocks – it’s theorized that so many detonations would cause mass earthquakes across the entire county – would cause more damage. The fallout – both from the bombs, but also to the atmosphere… that many nuclear explosions, in such amount of time does severe damage to the world. World climate could have changed, tides, maybe even the O-Zone… we don’t know…”
“What’s your point?”
“That the world was damaged by the bombs, but was taking continuous damage for years afterward… Probably still is, even now.”
“So what I said about the whole world not being covered by the bombs…”
“Is still right – mathematically speaking, there’s going to be areas… not unaffected, but probably kind of cleaned up. Bear in mind that fallout is in the air – the wind can take it anywhere. Out to sea perhaps…”
“But as you said, that many bombs…”
“Nuclear Winter, they called it. The theory that nuclear war would lead to a sort of forced winter – skies overcast by ash and radioactive dust… Then there’s Nuclear Rain – where the rain – and this snow – would be irradiated, falling down on and killing the world. It can’t be predicted… well, if you launched one bomb, you could theorize; know the weather, the wind direction and strength… you could predict where the fallout’s going to go, but with ten, twenty… you just can’t figure something like that out.”
“So are we going to find what we’re after or not?”
“We’re lucky so far – our Vault is in a place where there is very little radiation. That might mean the world’s purged itself of the man-made sickness, or that the bombs fell far enough away, or that the fallout drifted away… But this area is relatively fine – not much more than background radiation.”
“So will we find more survivable places?”
“I can’t offer any scientific speculation, but yes, I think we will.”
Through the fog and cloud, they came across a sudden and steep drop. The men at the front of the expedition threw a hand high in the sky and called out to stop. Everyone did, and some stared over the edge, either downward, or out into nothingness.
The mountainous terrain stretched out like icy fingers, quickly fading into the clouds. The sunlight was smudged across their vision like an over-dilated watercolor painting. The mountain was much like Amelia had expected, though the fog and poor vision wasn’t anticipated by anyone, and the temperature was more extreme than thought too. Amelia had imagined staring out, seeing the mountain reach to a lush forest at ground level that had reclaimed fallen metropolises, a city and sea visible on the horizon. But they saw next to nothing. What was behind the fog, no one knew. They could be mere feet from a discovery, or miles.
“You see anything apart from radiation?” Mark asked.
“I told you before that you can’t see radiation, Mark,” Amelia said quietly enough to avoid any embarrassment on Mark’s part. “No, vision is practically non-existent.”
“I can see something down there,” someone said, their eyes behind a pair of binoculars.
“What is it?” Carter asked.
“I'm not sure. It’s barely visible. Looks like it might be a building. Could be rock,” the binoculars were handed to Carter, who concurred, then to Mark who saw nothing. Amelia took a look and agreed also.
“There’s definitely something there. I think I is a building. Fog seems to be clearing up a little, at least in that direction.”
“Nuked?” Pre-War books and educational material had taught Mark that particular slang.
“I don’t know. We’ll have to go down there and get some readings.”
“You think that’s our best shot?” Another voice – a scientist – chipped in.
Amelia nodded. “There’s evidence of something down there – more than up here. So far we’ve seen nothing, not even a brick. Down there though – there’s one set of ruins… I wonder what it was.”
Carter – the leader of the expedition – took a moment to survey the terrain.
“Can’t see much other than the building,” he said, slowly moving the binoculars. “I can’t tell for sure, it’s too far away and the fog is a real problem. Could be intact, could be ruins. I think it’s worth checking out, anyway.”
“How do we get there?” Mark asked, looking for something he couldn’t see. The drop in front of them was too steep and he couldn’t see a way through the fog.
“Keep going round,” Amelia said automatically, pointing to the left. It was obvious, really; they couldn’t go straight forward, so that meant they had to head onward, seeking another way down. “Keep the direction of the building in mind, and try to head that way as we can.”
“Yeah,” Carter nodded. “Take a minute to rest and we’ll head out.”
The snow slowed things down significantly. Most people were feeling impatient – none were used to walking in snow, lifting their feet so awkwardly as they inched forward so slowly. Hours passed before they found any more signs of habitation in a world seemingly long since dead.
The word came from one of the expedition’s front-men, who pointed at a building. No one thought it was the same building, as they hadn’t travelled far enough, and hadn’t been able to move in the right direction. They were practically walking blind; their visual range was less than twenty meters at times. Occasionally, the fog thinned out, but not by much, and when it did it didn’t seem to last. The world was not making it easy for them. But then, Amelia reminded herself, nobody ever said it would be.
The security officers instinctively drew their guns and ensured they were loaded and ready to fire. Carter handed over command to the chief security officer, which was a smart move, Amelia thought. The security commander pointed a couple of men in one direction, and a couple in another. The men and women moved with controlled footsteps around the parameter of the building while the remaining security officers watched over the scientists.
“No signs of life,” Mark said, looking at his Pipboy, in an attempt to reassure Amelia. He was one of two left back to ‘babysit’ the scientists.
“Safety in numbers,” she said with an unconcerned shrug.
A few minutes passed and the area was deemed clear. Carter waved the scientists in, knowing they were eager to explore the remains of whatever the building had once been.
Amelia entered the ruins through what once would have been a doorway. Instantly she got chills down her spine and she froze, allowing only her head to turn. The roof had collapsed long ago, and much of the rubble lay against one interior wall, the rest piled beside the building on the outside. It was as though a giant had torn the roof off, like the lid of a jar. There was an old and broken bookcase, and a coffee table snapped in two, likely by a chunk of the roof that lay atop it. A layer of snow covered everything like dust. The walls and fractured roof beams offered some shelter, so the snow was no more than a thin layer of white powder and ice, thicker in some areas than others. Amelia looked round, taking all this in, but couldn’t bring herself to enter fully.
“What’s wrong?” Mark asked.
“This…” Amelia said quietly. “This used to be someone’s home. This was where they lived, where all their things were, where they slept…. Everyday they’d come through this door, and…” Parts of the building were still intact, though whatever furniture might have once belonged was long gone – destroyed or stolen, Amelia didn’t know. “And it’s all gone… their lives, just destroyed.”
“They might have survived. In a vault maybe…”
Amelia shook her head. “You don’t feel it do you? This was someone’s home.”
“One of many destroyed, two hundred years ago. Besides, why would anyone live here? Up a mountain, surrounded by nothing, in the cold snow and fog…”
“Yet here we are, in their house.” Amelia bent down and picked up the remains of a book, ruined by whatever destroyed the building, or by time or weather. She brushed the snow and ice off of the cover. She tried to open it, but the pages inside were fused together in one crumbling, soggy pulp, the ink long since faded.
“I wonder what this was about.” She dropped it dismissively onto the floor and took a breath. “It feels wrong being in here, Mark. This is someone’s – was someone’s home. We shouldn’t be here, poking around.”
Mark shrugged. “It’s probably not high on their list of concerns, you know, being dead and all.”
Amelia slapped at Mark’s arm, but said nothing. Mark just shook his head and began to look around the building, wondering what caused large chunks of the walls and the entire roof to collapse. He looked up, seeing the grey sky, wondering what it would have been like in such a home. Another shrug ended that train of thought and he continued his snoop.
Mark found very little of interest. Whatever color the walls had once been had faded, leaving behind the lifeless grey of the crumbling concrete and the browns of rotting wood. Mark picked up a fragment of wood, which fell apart in his hands. He guessed it was strong once; holding up the roof, perhaps, but now was brittle, much like the world itself.
Mark found Amelia outside. She had her back to the ruins, looking out at the uninteresting hills that hid behind the fog.
“You okay?” Mark asked, reaching out for her shoulder.
She nodded timidly. “It’s a shock – seeing someone’s home like that… This is what the world is, isn’t it? Ruins… The entire world, destroyed.” Hope had left her voice, replaced by a cynical sadness.
“We’ll find some civilization. You said it yourself, none of this area is high in radiation, and I don’t see any bomb craters around.”
“Two hundred years, Mark… What if it’s just us?”
Mark didn’t have an answer to that, but he didn’t need to. Carter appeared, informing the pair that they were moving on.
Posted 18 May 2014 - 05:51 PM
With all due respect, but to me it looks like you're not exactly feeling not only the world you wanted to set your story in, but also your story as a whole.
You're a young women born and raised in a Vault, your mother and grandmother were born in the same place, hanging around the same people. That was your only world and you hadn't a chance to see anything else. Yet you got a chance to walk outside from your shelter which was closed for the last 200 years or more and you're acting like everything is okay. I believe it doesn't work that way. How would you know about fishing, or even what fish is (look at NV), how would you know about homes and things like that? Of course there are holodisks about zoology and history, but you're never had the chance to taste the fresh air not filtered by the machines, see the clear sky instead of steel ceiling of the Vault and you're really not surprised nor turned on by it?
Also there are some points that were simply made wrong:
10 people walking outside is just asking for trouble. You got Vault inhabited by 1000 people and everyone is needed. There is work for everyone, so sending 10 people for something that would be sure death (since all-clear signal didn't come in) is just strange. In FO 1 you were third guy sent outside, after the first one disappeared and second one was killed by rats. They could sent 10 people squad to Vault 15 to retrieve water chip, but sending more men would leave some places in a Vault unattended.
All Vault Dwellers were advised to wear goggles all the time to prevent their eyes from burning. Human evolution is working all the time and whole generations living underground would resulted in eyes and skin being extremely sensitive to atmosphere, temperature and sun.
Vaults were issued with Motion Scanners working with Pip Boys 2000 (depends what kind is used in your story), so they could simply use one to scan the vicinity for life sings.
Posted 17 June 2014 - 11:22 AM Edited by Mokrie Dela, 17 June 2014 - 11:23 AM.
I'm just going to keep adding to this for now. Maybe it'll resurrect it, u dunno.
Four - A Dead World
Amelia was looking at the terrain surrounding them while the others packed up the camp. They were lower here, with the mountain rolling up and down. Leafless carcasses of dead trees had begun to sporadically litter the white landscape.
Amelia said, “I wonder what it would have been like, living in such a world.”
“No different to the Vault, probably.”
Amelia turned, frowning at Mark’s statement. “How you figure that one out?”
“The vault is what we’re used to. That’s what they’d be used to. You wouldn’t know any different, would you? Like if you was born a guy. You wouldn’t know what it’d be like being a girl, so it’d be no different.”
“You’re right. No one would have thought it was something special, just their normal world.” Amelia chuckled. “Imagine what they must have thought of us, living where we live.”
Mark smiled but didn’t speak.
“Everything’s so alien.”
“I think it’s pretty cool.”
“What, walking in a dead world? I’m beginning to think that this is all there is. We haven’t seen any signs of life at all. This isn't like the old books or holodisks at all.”
“Abandoning your theory already?” Mark teased.
“No. It’s different out here, seeing the world like this… it’s beyond scientific theology. This is real. Everything I’ve read in books, old pictures I’ve seen, stories I’ve heard… You think you know, then reality reminds you how ignorant you actually are.”
“Sure nice to be outside though… Do you not feel… free?”
Amelia shrugged. “I might do if the world had some life to it. Two days and we’ve not seen any signs of life. How long would it take to walk from one city to another – the world was heavily populated, was it not? So far, nothing – not even the remains of a destroyed town. Nothing other than a flattened house.”
“We’re in the mountains. That’s all I know. How many cities were built in the mountains?”
“It’s not where I’d build one, I’ll admit.”
“Wait till we hit the bottom of these hills. We’ll see something, I'm sure.”
Amelia sighed. “I wanted this, Mark. I wanted to be part of this, to see the world, to find out what’s out there… to help.”
“I'm scared, Mark. The world out here is like one from a nightmare. There’s nothing out here – and that’s the problem. What if we're the only survivors?”
“There were other Vaults, weren't there? Just because we haven’t found anything doesn’t mean it’s not out there.”
“Then what is out there? Is it good, or bad?”
Mark’s hand stretched behind Amelia’s head onto her shoulder as he pulled her closer. “I'm not going to leave your side, okay? Safety in numbers – we’re all armed, and I think we can deal with anyone who’s out here,” he tapped his Pipboy, “not that there is.”
Amelia nodded but didn’t break the physical contact. They stood there, staring in silence until the call to move out came from Carter. Wordlessly, Amelia turned, ducking under Mark’s arm, and headed toward the other scientists. Mark needlessly checked his laser rifle and followed.
The expedition followed the unmarked terrain as the lifeless bodies of trees became more frequent. They were in their third day of traveling and, one of the scientists observed, the presence of trees indicated they were descending low enough that conditions would once have been sufficient for life to prosper, perhaps enough for human life to be present again. That meant their chance of finding civilization was increasing exponentially. Supposedly.
Another unmarked hour passed, with the monotony steadily building. The lack of anything of interest only added an undertone of tension, and each security officer had their gun cradled in front of them, suspicious that no green glowing zombies were attacking them.
“You know what I want to see?” Mark waited for Amelia to elaborate on her first word since camp. “A beach.”
Mark was aware what a beach was – the educational material had taught them of the Old World – but although Amelia had always held a strong interest for the days long past, he found it strange for Amelia to suddenly mention it.
“Yeah. Golden sand, the warm sun, sitting in a swimsuit, the light blue sea lapping at my feet…” She shook her head. “Paradise.” With Amelia in a swimsuit, Mark found that word appropriate.
“Yeah,” he said. “Until the sea makes you grow a third leg, and the sand begins to burn the skin off your feet.”
Amelia swung a back-handed punch to Mark’s bicep, but it was accompanied by a chuckle. “We won’t find anything like that here though. I wonder if such a place still exists. Somewhere in the world, is there a country that just put their head down when the missiles flew? Did the winds carry the fallout away from them?”
“Who knows?” Mark shrugged, the thought of Amelia in a swimsuit sitting in his mind. The image of her body, semi-naked, was too much of a distraction for his current job. He shook his mind free, clutching the laser rifle harder to remind him of the dangers they faced.
Or didn’t face. They’d seen nothing out here to even hint at life. Even the few trees they’d seen were dead. Somewhere out there, he told himself, there had to be something, good or bad. He looked at Amelia again, wondering if it would be better if she was back in the Vault. On one hand she seemed to relish her role in the expedition, but on the other hand she was still that innocent girl, scared of the unknown. For her it was a battle of two minds; her scientific and her emotive.
Mark had lost count of the hours, but finally an intact building appeared in the distance, down a slight slope, partially obscured by more dead trees. The fog had thinned out enough that they could see just over a hundred meters, and they watched the building as they approached.
The security detail split in two, half moving forward to check the building, the other half remaining with the scientists. Eyes fell to the Pipboys, but with minimal interest. The small screen showed no life signs in the building, and everyone was waved into the area deemed clear.
Amelia and Mark stepped into the building, which they found dark and dreary. The windows were covered in what had to be years of dust and grime and frost which blocked out most of the sunlight, with the odd column of light leaking through pin-prick gaps in the dirt. The floor had turned to dust, crumbled by years of cycling between damp and dryness. Their feet scraped on the loose ground.
“Still thinking there’s nothing in the world?” Mark asked, looking around at an interior that had somehow been mostly preserved since the war. “The bombs haven’t flattened this place.”
Amelia nodded, looking around the room. “This is remarkable. It’s like this place was shielded. The paint’s worn, from time or radiation – I'm not sure…” She checked her Pipboy. “Radiation levels are normal.” She shrugged and moved over to a sofa, touching it with her hand, feeling the rough material.
“This looks like a good place to set up camp – out of the weather for once,” Carter said while looking around the room. Amelia nodded and moved through a door-less frame into what turned out to be a kitchen. Mark was a couple of feet behind her.
“At least the refrigerator’s intact,” Mark joked. “Even some food boxes…” He pointed at the side. Amelia stared at it, seeing a plate of half-eaten food… that had not rotted at all.
“Something’s wrong,” she breathed, turning and staring at Mark.
A voice came next, quieting everyone in the building. The voice was rough and unknown to them. Mark heard it too and frowned. Everyone had grown complacent in their several day journey; seeing no signs of life had led to the assumption that they were alone. But while their Pipboys had showed no signs of life, there most certainly was, notabley in the form of a man with a Mohawk hairstyle, with leather and metal clothing. Worst of all was the object in his hand. The gun fired without hesitation, and the man was joined by several more. Hate-filled expressions dominated their faces.
Some of the security personnel returned fire, their lasers burning holes in the flesh of the attackers.
Amelia’s timely warning was enough to save her and Mark. He pushed her toward the back of the kitchen, with strict instructions to stay down. He moved to the doorway, taking cover in what little space there was behind the wall beside it, and opened fire at the attackers, wondering who the hell they were.
To his horror, however, Amelia was beside him, trying to pull the refrigerator out – a task which looked difficult for her.
“What are you doing?!” Mark snapped. “Get back over there!”
“Trust me,” Amelia had bite in her voice too – a side of her he’d never seen, but that he abstractly liked. He sighed and pulled the appliance out in one movement, and helped Amelia quickly throw it onto its side.
That’s when Mark realized what she was doing. He leaped over it, landing heavily on his rump but quickly scrambling to a position where he could return fire.
The bullets from the submachineguns pinged off of the refrigerator. Whoever they were, their aim was terrible; the bullets were missing by both inches and several feet, with no consistency between the two. One even smashed the naked light bulb that hung from the ceiling – easily six feet from them.
Then came a shot from a laser weapon. The laser simply bounced off the refrigerator, like a beam of light on a mirror. It rebounded toward the attackers, giving Mark a second to pop up and focus his fire.
The exchange lasted a few minutes, but finally Mark fired the last shot off, followed by a muffled thud as the last body hit the floor.
Amelia’s ears were ringing, and at first Mark’s voice was indistinguishable. She stuck her pinky finger in her ear and shook, trying to clear her head. Sound only returned when Mark’s hand rested on her shoulder. She realized he was standing the other side of the refrigerator, having already ventured out into the main room.
“W-what the hell happened?” she whimpered, feeling her heart pounding in her chest. Strangely, she saw her heartbeat; a weird pulsating of her vision. Her head felt as if it were filled with sand, heavy and tight, but as Mark sat her on the downed appliance, that cleared. Her mouth was dry and she found it difficult to swallow or talk. She remedied this with a sip from her water container.
“Are you okay?” Mark asked. She nodded, feeling no pain to warn her of injury, but checked herself over quickly. That’s when she saw Mark’s arm coated in red. She gasped and grabbed him, but he calmed her down.
“I'm okay. A couple of bullets hit me but they’re some small caliber. Skin wounds, nothing more.”
Amelia nodded sheepishly. Then she tried getting up, and Mark tried to stop her.
“Where’s everyone else?” she asked.
“I – ” Before Mark could stop her, she was out of the kitchen. He followed but she stopped, so suddenly he almost walked into her.
Carter and two others were sitting on the sofa, one of them bleeding heavily. The room was filled with bodies, and the strangest of smells. The mixture of dust and dirt, gunpowder and ash and human blood created a sweet and a musky stench that she smelt only when she saw her dead companions.
Amelia tried to talk, to vocalize her questions, but only managed to purse her lips against the smoky air. Her eyes saw the injured scientist and immediately her fear and shock was overridden by her education and training. She ran over, crouched down and began to assess the wounds. It turned out both men were injured, and she discerned the prognosis in seconds.
Carter appeared, looking down, asking without words, and Amelia answered with a head shake. While still alive, this man’s fate was not good. His breathing was laborious and the gurgling in his throat said it all. The blood that covered his clothing was almost black and came from several wounds, mostly on his torso, which had dealt catastrophic damage to his internal organs.
The other security officer – actually another female – would live. The armor that was a standard part of her uniform had saved her life, blocking the bullets from doing to her what had been done to the unfortunate man next to her. Her arm was badly cut up, but they had the supplies to sort that out – something Amelia begun immediately. Then they did what they could to the other man – she’d forgotten his name, much to her devastation – but it was a lost cause. He was dead in ten minutes.
“What the hell happened?” Mark asked, having pulled Carter aside after Amelia had cleaned her hands and seen to Mark’s wounds. His upper arm was covered in bandages and he slipped his coat back on. The sleeve was torn in several placed just above the elbow.
“They came out of nowhere, through there.” Carter pointed at a door that had – somehow – escaped notice. Mark moved toward it and looked through, seeing steps leading downstairs.
“Any more life signs?” he asked Carter.
“No, just us four.”
Mark nodded and headed down the steps.
Amelia saw the worried look on Carter’s face. He looked up at her and ran toward the stairs, his gun out.
She just stood there, frowning in confusion. A moment later Mark and Carter returned.
“What was that about?” she asked, forgetting the dead that surrounded her.
“Mark disappeared from the Pipboy. I thought he’d died.”
Amelia frowned again. “How can he just disappear? Mark, what did you do?”
“Just went downstairs. They were down there, some kind of lair. I thought there’d be more.”
“Oh, no,” she breathed, sparking stares from the other three.
“Mark, go back down. Once there, tell me how many life signs your Pipboy detects.”
Mark nodded and disappeared from sight and, within a few seconds, on their Pipboy displays. He came back, wearing a frown of his own.
Amelia shook her head. “The Pipboys aren’t detecting life forms on different elevations. Above or below us, we’re blind.
“They came back halfway up the stairs,” Mark offered.
Amelia nodded. “I think they’ve got some kind of funnel-vision; they can only detect within a tubular range.”
“They only detect what’s in front of them.” She pulled her Pipboy off and began to tinker with it.
“Best leave her to whatever she’s doing,” Carter said, having lost control of everything, and with no idea how to get it back. Strangely, it was Amelia who was now in charge. Everyone looked at her, knowing she was the smartest. The one thing Carter did know, though, was that they had to clear the bodies up.
A couple of hours passed and, with Mark deciding it was necessary to check every inch of the building for threats – and finding none. They barricaded the only entrance to the building, giving themselves some form of protection. Mark sat, watching the door and his Pipboy, waiting for anyone to turn up.
“We’re going to head back,” Carter said after a while. “The next expedition will have our heaviest weapons and armor.” No one was sure if there would be another, however.
“How are we going to get the bodies back?” The fourth person – Julie Hay – asked. Amelia looked up and then around the room.
“Build a trolley? Or a sledge?”
Carter nodded at that, and gave orders for Mark to help him tear the sofa and the coffee table apart. The two men began to build a sledge, and when that was done, they piled the bodies of their friends and colleagues on top, using the sofa’s material to tie them on.
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